More than 40 million adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder, close to 20% of the population. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising given the recent news events, worker burnout, and the pandemic. And though solutions should be talked about regularly, a spotlight is on the topic in May as it’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Incredibly, some SI Swimsuit models have been open with their personal anxiety and depression struggles and what’s helped. But, we wanted to chat with an expert to find out some simple ways to help those struggling (myself included!) reduce those anxious feelings.
So, we tapped Dr. Kathryn Smerling, an NYC-based psychotherapist who works with individuals and families to help them create a better life. Of course, seeking a medical professional is always advised. But, here are Dr. Smerling’s top tips for coping with anxiety that can help now.
Get Outside and in Nature
Studies have shown that spending time in nature significantly reduces stress on a physiological level. It can lower blood pressure, reduce nervous system arousal, improve your mood and more.“Take a break from screens, work, anything that might be a stressor, and take a walk outdoors. It can be as simple as that,” says Dr. Smerling. “Exercise itself is also greatly beneficial.”
More from SwimLife
“Focus on your breathing and practice deep-breathing exercises,” she says. Again, this has been proven to reduce anxiety. That’s because breathing slower and deeply from your stomach (diaphragmatic breathing) signals your nervous system to calm down.
“Focus on your body and relax,” Dr. Smerling adds. “Some wonderful things to try would be meditation or yoga.” According to research, a yoga practice can reduce levels of stress hormones in the body. That means your fight-or-flight response can shut down, and calm can set in.
Make Plans With Pals
When you’re feeling anxious, it can be easy to want to hide away. But doing the opposite can actually help reduce anxiety. The face-to-face connection releases good hormones that counteract that defensive fight-or-flight response. “Spend time with your friends and loved ones, and concentrate on these relationships,” says Dr. Smerling, “being around them and talking with them. Don’t isolate yourself.”`